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"Robots, Dwarves and Alice in wonderland: a different view of computer science for college and high school girls"

I cannot believe that my first semester teaching at Jacksonville University is over. Time flies when you are having fun! This was a great semester meeting some of the students that I will remember for my whole life because they were my first ones. It was also important because of the new project "Robots, Dwarves and Alice in wonderland: a different view of computer science for college and high school girls" that was brought to the Department of Computing Sciences with the valuable assistance from the "Systers Pass-It-On" award.

The goal of the project "Robots, Dwarves and Alice in wonderland: a different view of computer science for college and high school girls" is to attract more college and high school female students to science and engineering. This will be achieved by organizing a workshop for high school girls where they will learn how to build and program robots using Lego MindStorms, how to program using Alice, and how to create a web page using WebDwarf. The workshop will be conducted by college students with the assistance of professors from the Computing Sciences Department at Jacksonville University.

On the first phase of this project we met weekly with the college students and learned how to use the tools to implement our workshop. From the first meeting it seemed that this was a great opportunity for female CS students to socialize and realize that they are not alone. As the meetings progressed we had more volunteers for our workshop.

Building robots with Lego MindStorms was ultimate fun. The students first built the basic ROV and familiarized with the programming software. We decided that we will use this design for our workshop and include some basic programming exercises. Of course these were students interested in science so they could not rest on building just a simple design. By the end of the semester we had a lama that would throw balls and "Sedwick", a small humanoid that could balance with his programming algorithm and a sensor. Here is a short video of him.

The students were also fascinated with the Alice software. They liked building scenarios and learning principles of object oriented programming while having fun. For the workshop we are planning to devise our own scenarios that would be small and simple but educational on object oriented programming.

The WebDwarf software was simple and straightforward for the students. We have devised instructions to use in our workshop on how to make a web page. We will also teach some basic principles about networking and how to post a web page.

The second phase of the project is important to its success. We will plan our strategy and find student leaders for each session of the workshop. This will take courage for the students to present material in front of younger students. It will be a valuable and rewarding experience in the end. The workshop will take place on Spring semester and we will have more updates on the progress.

The future is bright for this project. We want to maintain this as a yearly event. This will be an opportunity to maintain and cultivate the relationship with high schools in the area. Another goal is to establish a yearly summer camp based on the project "Robots, Dwarves and Alice in wonderland: a different view of computer science for college and high school girls".

I would like to thank the chair of the Computing Sciences Department, Prof. Acker, for embracing this project, attending, and helping at every meeting. I would also like to thank the chair of the Division of Science and Math, Dr. Lee Anne Clements, for her warm financial and moral support of this project. A big thank you to "Systers" for this award, as well as for guiding and mentoring me since I started my Ph.D. studies in US. Finally, I would like to give a big thank you to the students (Crystal Armstrong, Marc Cribb, Rachael Jenkins, Davina Hamilton, Alyssia Cousins, Charles Francis, Tramel Lucas, Andrew Duane, Laura Wenk, Jenna Spangler) that volunteered their time to help. Without them this project would not even exist.

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